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Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
California Campus
Laboratory Website
Scripps VIVO Scientific Profile
(858) 784-8520

Scripps Research Joint Appointments

Faculty, Graduate Program

Other Joint Appointments

NSF-NASA CCI (Center for Chemical Evolution)
Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life

Research Focus

Research in our group is focused on the use of synthetic organic chemistry and methodology to

  1. experimentally address questions concerning the origins of life with respect to the advent of functional monomers and the emergence of informational polymers.
  2. fashion artificial informational polymers in order to expand the interface between synthetic nucleic acids and the natural biopolymers (proteins and RNA/DNA).
  3. make available novel molecular tools that may provide new avenues for probing biological systems and for research in synthetic biology.


Ph.D., Chemistry, The Ohio State University, 1992

Professional Experience

2014- Member, Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life
2010- Member, Center for Chemical Evolution, Georgia Institute of Technolology, Atlanta, Georgia
2005– Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research, Institute, La Jolla, California
2005–2009 Investigator, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
1998–2005 Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
1996–1997 Senior research associate with Professor Eschenmoser, The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
1994–1996 Postdoctoral Fellow, NASA Specialized Center for Research and Training (NSCORT) in Exobiology; Research Advisor – Prof. Gustaf Arrhenius, The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
1992–1994 Postdoctoral Fellow; Research Advisor – Prof. Albert Eschenmoser, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich

Awards & Professional Activities

2016              Member, Scientific Organizing Committee, 2017 ISSOL.
2014-17         Councillor, ISSOL (The International Astrobiology Society)
2011              ISSOL Fellow
2010              Member, Scientific Organizing Committee, 2011 ISSOL.
2009–            UCSD undergraduate work-study program.
2008­–            MySci@Scripps - annual open house for High School students
                      and Mentor, TSRI summer internship program;
                      Astrobiology panel at UCSD life sciences career expo.
2006-08         San Diego Science Educators Association – Inventors
1998–            Member, American Association for the Advancement of
1995–            Member, International Society for the Study of the Origin
                      of Life (The International Astrobiology Society)
1988–            Member, American Chemical Society


Selected References

All Publications

Giving Rise to Life: Transition from Prebiotic Chemistry to Protobiology. Krishnamurthy, R. Acc. Chem Res. 2017, 50, 455–459.

Prebiotic Organic Chemistry and Chemical pre-Biology: Speaking to the Synthetic Organic Chemists. Krishnamurthy, R.; Snieckus, V. Synlett, 2017, 28, 27-29.

RNA-DNA Chimeras in the Context of an RNA-world Transition to an RNA/DNA-world. Gavette, J. V.; Stoop. M.; Hud, N. V.; Krishnamurthy, R. Angew. Chemie, Int, Ed. 2016, 55, 13204-13209 DOI: 10.1002/anie.201607919   

Ester-Mediated Amide Bond Formation Driven by Wet-Dry Cycles: A Possible Path to Polypeptides on Prebiotic Earth. Forsythe, J.G.; Yu, S-S.; Mamajanov, I.; Grover, M.A.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Fernandez, F.M.; Hud, N.H. Angew. Chem. Int . Ed. 2015, 54, 9871-9875, DOI: 10.1002/ange.201503792.

The Emergence of RNA. Krishnamurthy, R. Israel J. Chemistry, 2015, 55, 837-850; Cover page

RNA as an Emergent Entity: An Understanding Gained Through Studying its Non-Functional Alternatives. Krishnamurthy, R. Synlett, 2014, 25, 1511-1518.

Production of Tartrates by Cyanide Mediated Dimerization of Glyoxylate: A Potential Abiotic Pathway to the Citric Acid Cycle. Butch, C.; Cope, E.D.; Pollet, P.L.; Gelbaum, L.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Liotta, C. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 13440-1344.

Role of pKa of Nucleobases in the Origins of Chemical Evolution. Krishnamurthy, R. Acc. Chem. Res. 2012. DOI: 10.1021/ar200262x

Exploratory Experiments on the Chemistry of the "Glyoxylate Scenario": Formation of Ketosugars from Dihydroxyfumarate. Sagi, V.N.; Punna, V.; Hu, F.; Meher, G.; Krishnamurthy, R. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 3577-3589.

Diastereoselective Self-Condensation of Dihydroxyfumaric Acid in Water: Potential Route to Sugars. Sagi, V.N.; Karri, P.; Hu, F., Krishnamurthy, R. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011, 50, 8127-8130.

Chemical Etiology of Nucleic Acid Structure: The α-Threofuranosyl-(3’→2’) Oligonucleotide System. Schöning, K.-U.; Scholz, P.; Guntha, S.; Wu, X.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Eschenmoser, A. Science 2000, 290, 1347-1351.

Chemical Etiology of Nucleic Acid Structure: Comparing Pentopyranosyl-(2'→4') Oligonucleotides with RNA. Beier, M.; Reck, F.; Wagner, T.; Krishnamurthy, R.; Eschenmoser, A.  Science 1999, 283, 699-703.


NSF-NASA CCI (Center for Chemical Innovation)

Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life

International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life and Astrobiology Society

Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology